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I was wrong about my bungalow


Oh look, it's been months and months since I last posted! What have I been up to? Well, dear reader, remember the Ardmore model bungalow that was for sale in Shepherd Park? I bought it. I spent late summer and fall engaged in new-old-house work, from updating systems to dealing with gutters and an old, rusted metal roof in the breaks between deluge and earthquake. Meanwhile, I've been keeping an eye out for other houses of the same model around the area.

One oddity a friend pointed out: In the catalogue page for this model, there is a disconnect between the way the porch steps are drawn on the plan and the way they're depicted in the sketch of the house. In the plan, the steps are centered on the porch; in the sketch, they're offset, not directly in front of the door, but to the right of center, with the model's distinctive porch railing appearing only to the left of the steps. (Image below from Standard Homes Co.'s 101 Modern Homes, digitized by

I filed that information away but thought little of it; I just chalked it up to variations in what homeowners did with the kits they bought. A few weeks later, however, I was browsing various blogs for bungalow-remodeling inspiration and happened upon this post at DCmud, a local real estate blog. As I was admiring architect Michael Callison's sensitive expansion of his bungalow, I suddenly looked again at the small shot of the house's front and realized — it's my bungalow! (Below left: photo from; right, my house.)


I immediately emailed Mr. Callison to rave about his work and ask if he had any "before" shots, so I could get a sense of how his house had evolved over the years. He replied right away and set me straight: his house is not a Standard Homes Ardmore, but a Lewis Homes San Fernando. He emailed me the catalogue entry for the San Fernando, and lo and behold, he's right. Mine is a San Fernando, too. In the Lewis Homes plan, the porch stair placement matches in the rendering and plan, and both of them match where my porch steps are in real life. Some tiny variations between the plans in the placement of closets and the bathroom door confirm the identification. (Below: Details from the San Fernando catalogue entry.)


So which plan is a knockoff of which? It seems pretty clear that Standard Homes "borrowed" the Lewis plan, reusing the rendering but substituting a subtly different plan. The Ardmore was published a year later than the San Fernando, too (1923 vs. 1922). (One mystery: How did the Standard Homes people remove the shrubbery from the Lewis image?)

Now that I know that the placement of the porch stairs is the telltale difference between the models, I can tell that most of the bungalows around NW DC and nearby Maryland that I'd identified as Ardmores are actually San Fernandos, including the one on Fessenden:

An exception is the pair of houses on Aspen Street, just off Georgia Avenue, which I'm pretty sure really are Ardmores:

All this makes me wonder whether Standard Homes, which was a DC-based company, saw the popularity of the Lewis San Fernando around town in 1922 and decided to make a knockoff as a result. I'm still keeping an eye out for more examples of either model. If you have one, or if you spot one in the wild, let me know. I'd love to compare interior details, too. [Addendum: Here's one in Syracuse(?), painted purple, with brick piers!]

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Reader Comments (4)

Oh man--this kind of old house geekery makes me so very, very happy! Sounds so interesting!
(Also, is it crazy that I totally want all the gory details on the house work? :-D)

February 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTEM

Not crazy, but I'm afraid there's nothing too glamorous to report. My home inspector said the water heater was so dangerously misplumbed that he wouldn't even turn on the hot water tap, plus it was at the end of its useful life, so item number one the day after settlement was having the HVAC guys in to replace that. Then a visit from George the Plumber to take care of numerous little oddities. A great splurge: Paying a nice man to replace every single sash cord in the whole house before any painting happened. I've replaced one or two sash cords myself in the past and know how time-consuming and fiddly it is. I'm lucky to have 22 original sash windows in this house, and now I'm doubly lucky to have every one of them operable!

The fun part of the summer was having every single interior surface painted or, if it was a countertop, replaced with something more colorful. When I bought the house, every surface was on the mud-mucus-mustard spectrum. Now I have a house full of reds, lavenders, sky blues, grass greens, and yellows. Huge thanks are due to Annie at Bossy Color for galvanizing the color choices. (You can see lots of before and after pics in this Flickr set.) In a few years, I'll get around to painting the exterior something more bungalow-appropriate than band-aid beige, and a few years after that, I hope to replace the rickety back addition with a slightly bigger one and relocate the teensy kitchen to the back of the house overlooking the yard. I've promised myself a decade of obsessive idea-collection and renovation-dreaming before I can afford to do that.

February 9, 2012 | Registered CommenterCarin

Very nice!

I wish I could force myself to get more adventurous with wall color! And I can't even imagine how much work replacing sash cords would be (only about half of them are still full operational in my apartment)...but then again, those are probably the least of the issues with my building's windows (which I'm pretty sure haven't been touched since the 1910s when the rowhouse was built!--which is wonderful in that they haven't been destroyed, but awful in that I'm really glad I don't have to pay for the heat in the building!) :-P

(And the pictures are awesome!)

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTEM

Now that's impressive detective work! So nice to see another blog on kit homes, and best of all, a blog that is *focused* on getting the facts right!

And the discovery that you have a Lewis San Fernando is best of all!

Rose Thornton
author, The Houses That Sears Built

March 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRose

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